Creativity and technical excellence sets architecture student apart

by Tania Wannenburg
Creativity and technical excellence sets architecture student apart

The winner of the Corobrik Architectural Awards was announced on 11 May. Vedhant Maharaj from the University of the Witwatersrand designed a water purification infrastructure for the hazardously polluted River Ganges in India.

Vedhant Maharaj from The University of the Witwatersrand became the 29th architectural student winner of the Corobrik Architectural Awards, announced on 11 May 2016.

His thesis, entitled “Yantra, Infrastructure of the Sacred and Profane” suggests a water purification infrastructure for the hazardously polluted River Ganges in India.

The dissertation exhibited critical elements that had been picked out by the judges – innovation and technical excellence expressed with a keen understanding of the combined social, economic and environmental context that is changing the approach to the built environment today.

According to Corobrik managing director, Dirk Meyer, all the regional winners’ entries showed how innovation could blend with sustainability, social awareness and technical excellence. However, Vedhant Maharaj’s offering illustrated how creativity could make an exceptional and meaningful contribution to South Africa’s diverse and multi-cultural landscape.

“Innovation differentiates design resolutions and helps define architecture. Innovation in sync with context provides the delight factor permitting architectural design to compete comfortably on the world stage. Technical skill, the ability to create memorable form that draws one in while treading softly on our planet put the finishing touches to sustainable architecture,” Meyer states.

This year’s judges were Phill Mashabane of Mashabane Rose Architects, Karuni Naidoo from CNN Architects and Andre Eksteen from Earthworld Architects.

Social consciousness
In reaction to Maharaj’s achievement, his co-supervisor, Dr Mpho Matipa comments that, Yantra explored water infrastructure that provided water that was safe for human consumption while respecting the rich architectural heritage of Varanasi.

“In so doing, he demonstrated both a nuanced and layered understanding of sustainability, technological and social innovation which encompasses daily spatial practices on the Ganges River, larger scale developmental processes in India, heritage in the built environment and everyday spatial practices as well as the complexities of religious plurality in India.”

She further points out that Maharaj’s attention to questions of access for the majority populations was both poetic and attentive to questions of social and spatial justice.

Dr Matipa’s advice to Maharaj is to continue working and thinking across different scales and locations. “Vedhant demonstrates a lot of passion for thinking about the spatial, technological and ambient possibilities of infrastructure as culturally informed architecture. I believe that he could become a leader in the field – specifically in terms of thinking about water architecture from the Global South,” she states.
Clay brick’s future role
Meyer further highlights that clay bricks have an important role in both design and construction going forward.
“The architecture of the future will see application drive design and the choice of building materials play a key role in ensuring sustainability. Emerging talents within the profession will be called on to embrace technological expertise and apply this through selecting building materials that meet specific needs,” he points out.
“Clay brick addresses sustainability, longevity and financial challenges. It offers a myriad of benefits whilst adding distinctive aesthetic and textural appeal and the ability to meet design and construction challenges. Brick can accommodate virtually any shape or form. Yet, it is ultra-practical in that it requires minimal maintenance and provides thermal efficiency, which contributes to improved indoor comfort in all temperatures and lower energy costs throughout the life of a building,” he explains.
Guest speaker, Peter Rich, who is a practicing architect and has been a Professor of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand for 30 years, also touched on the compelling future of architecture in his keynote address entitled “Evolving design and materiality trends set to influence tomorrow’s sustainable architecture”.
Tel: 011 871 8600
Website: www.corobrik.com

Regional winners:
•    Leon van der Westhuizen, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
•    Ulrich Pieterse, Tshwane University of Technology.
•    Matthew Mills, University of Cape Town.
•    Jaco Jonker, University of Johannesburg.
•    Najeeba Hassim, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
•    Gillian van der Klashorst, University of Pretoria.
•    Nilene van Niekerk, University of the Free State.
•    Vedhant Maharaj, University of Witwatersrand (overall winner).

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